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Feud among neighbors boils over during council meeting

A dispute among neighbors was brought in front of the Two Harbors City Council on Monday night during the 5 p.m. finance meeting. Michael VanHorn and his wife Angie appeared before the council with evidence of what they called transgressions by their neighbors on their property. VanHorn showed a PowerPoint presentation that included surveillance footage and photographs that he claimed showed his neighbors in various acts of misconduct, such as peeping in his windows and destroying bushes he had planted on the edge of his property.

"I just want to be left alone. Is that too much to ask?" VanHorn said.

VanHorn recently placed railroad ties at the edge of his property. VanHorn answered complaints that they obstructed the alley by saying the ties are within his property limits. He directly addressed Councilor Steve Detlefsen regarding Detlefsen's investigation into the railroad tie issue, and tensions boiled over as the two raised their voices in argument over Detlefsen's analysis.

"My question is, how do you end this war you got going on?" Detlefsen asked VanHorn.

Two Harbors Police Chief Kevin Ruberg was in attendance, and the council asked him to arrange a mediation between VanHorn and two of his neighbors. It was noted that the previous police chief, Chris Donald, had attempted a similar step but the mediation had never actually happened.

"This has been going on for a long time," Ruberg said. He agreed to contact the parties in the near future and set up a mediation session.

The Minnesota Street Rod Association has requested that the City of Two Harbors maintain 2012 rates at the Burlington Bay Campground for the 2013 MSRA Fall Campout. The MSRA has also asked that the campground hold all available campsites for the weekend of Sept. 6-8 until the month of June. This is an effort to give MSRA members an opportunity to make reservations. Due to the overwhelming response of MSRA members and the numbers of cars that were on display, the MSRA has asked that the 600 block of First Avenue in Two Harbors be blocked off the day of the car show. The motion to grant these requests was passed.

The amount of money that weekend produced was unprecedented for the area and it was a wonderful opportunity to show them north shore hospitality, "said mayor Randy Bolen who added that MSRA participants commented that their weekend on the North Shore last summer was one of the best experiences they've had as a group.

Councilor Dan Jones said that applicants for position of Airport Manager and those for the position at the Water Treatment plant will be interviewed "in the next couple of weeks." Richard Helgeson, who is in his 80s and for whom the Two Harbors airport is named, recently retired after decades of service.

An analysis of utility rates by Ehler's Inc., a consulting firm hired by the city, resulted in a recommendation to increase the water use tax to 9.5%, which is up from the 2011 rate of 6.75%. The tax on wastewater will increase to 1.5%.

Councilor Norberg said the increased rates would help pay for required improvements to the system to keep Two Harbors in compliance with government regulations.

At a special meeting held last week, Bolen said that the city plans to seek legislative approval to bring a sales tax increase proposal to the voters. If voters approve the measure, the local sales tax will increase to 1%. In effect, he said, this will allow tourism dollars to help offset some of the costs of making the improvements to the wastewater system, resulting in lower taxes on water use and wastewater treatment for residents.

Councilor Rosati called the councils attention to the new mural in the Two Harbors Public Library. Painted by Lisa Kosmo, the mural is on the wall in the entry of the library and depicts people reading on a bench overlooking the lighthouse and the docks. Rosati urged the councilors to see it.

Councilor Simonson recommended the adoption of the newly made agreement between the City of Two Harbors and the Teamsters Union representing the police department. The first year of the two-year contract will have an overall cost of $7035 in wages with an additional $650 per year for the shift differential for officers working late-night hours and Sundays. The second year's increases will have an overall cost of $7175 in wages and $325 in shift differentials. The members of the Teamsters bargaining unit have already ratified the contract. The contract also contains a "me too" clause so that if any of the other bargaining units receive additional wage increases or benefits, the Teamsters will also receive them.

Due to changes in accounting standards for cities, which were not originally required at the time of his hire, Two Harbors Financial Director Rick Sundstrom has offered to step down, said Steve Overom, Two Harbors City Attorney. Sundstrom has accepted the severance package offered by the city. The resolution to approve Sundstroms severance package passed unanimously.

Rosati was the single dissenting vote against appointing the Two Harbors City Council in charge of the Cable Commission. Mayor Randy Bolen said the proposal was a "cost saving move and an effort to continue to streamline government."

Two Harbors resident and former City Councilor, Steve Philips pointed out that public funds pay for the work performed by the Cable Commission and asked how the move could save the City money. He went on to say that he was "concerned and disappointed that the City would take the public out of the Cable Commission."

Councilor Seth Mc Donald, who served on the Cable Commission, said the commission was "inefficient...there was drama when there was no need. We need to get out of the mud and move forward. It was not necessary for those meetings to be the tone they were."

Mayor Bolen concurred saying, "it's not working, and it's ineffective. This is the best move for the city of Two Harbors.

Councilor Simonson agreed to support the motion as long as the change did not jeopardize the jobs of those currently employed by the Cable Commission.